Hrgovic is now mandatory for the winner of the Main Event in Jeddah
Filip Hrgovic survived an early knockdown in a lacklustre performance against Zhilei Zhang to win an IBF final eliminator in the chief support to Usyk vs Joshua 2 undercard in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Hrgovic would dominate the first two minutes of round one, taking the centre ring and reaching out with the jab. However, Zhang would send him to the canvas with a right hook against the grain of the fight. Zhang showed confidence and closed the round out with heavy shots. Zhang would fail to capitalise in round two as Hrgovic would string together some fluid combinations which would end in heavy blows. Zhang had the faster hands of the pair, but Hrgovic's work was cleaner.
Round three saw the pair clash heads at the beginning of the third, the doctor was called in but allowed the bout to continue although both men had picked up cuts. Zhang once again would implement his terrific hand speed as he would throw speedy combinations, Hrgovic came back with shots of his own but Zhang was beating his man to the punch. The fifth round saw Hrgovic try and expose the visibly draining gas tank of Zhang as he upped his punch output, however, Zhang would land an explosive combination in the dying embers of the round, seemingly causing Hrgovic problems.
Round six saw Zhang continue his success from the previous round, as he implemented some vicious combinations on the inside to send Hrgovic into survival mode momentarily, Zhang continued to dominate the round but Hrgovic was still there. After a slower seventh round, the eighth would show that Zhang was falling short in the war of attrition, as he visibly slowed down and was breathing heavily, however, the ninth saw Zhang find something from somewhere, as once again his uppercuts on the inside caused Hrgovic issues in the late stages of the round.
As we entered the championship rounds, something no one expected, the canvas became drenched in sweat, leading to both men being unable to plant their feet and resulting in Zhang slipping at the end of the 11th round. It came to the final round and both men were visibly shattered, but the pair continued the slugfest right up until the final bell, which left uncertainty about who would be declared the victor. The scorecards took a while to come through, but the cards would read 115-112x2 and 114-113 all in favour of Hrgovic, sparking boo's from the Saudi crowd who made it clear who they believed should've got the decision.